by Amanda Grev, Agriculture & Food Systems, Western Maryland Research and Education Center
The Maryland-Delaware Forage Conference took place online via two half-day sessions on January 12 and January 19, 2021. This virtual format was a first for the forage conference, which is a joint venture between the Maryland-Delaware Forage Council, University of Maryland Extension, and University of Delaware Extension and is traditionally held as an in-person event at four locations across the region.
The goal of the forage conference is to provide up-to-date, forage-related information and education to forage producers, grazers, livestock owners, and associated industry personnel. Featured speakers for the 2021 virtual conference included Dr. Chris Teutsch from the University of Kentucky, who spoke on Strategies to Boost Summer Production with Warm-Season Forages, and Dr. Dan Undersander, formerly with the University of Wisconsin, who spoke on Hay Drying Strategies for when Mother Nature Doesn’t Cooperate. Other topics at the 2021 conference included pasture renovation, weed management for pastures and hayfields, maintaining forage stand persistence, and optimizing soil fertility for forages.
The virtual conference was well attended, drawing a total of 238 participants on January 14th and 220 participants on January 19th. Attendees included a mix of producers and industry professionals who joined not only from the mid-Atlantic region but also from across the nation. The conference also served as an opportunity for participants to earn continuing education credits towards nutrient management, pesticide, and Certified Crop Advisor certifications. Collectively, a total of 151 and 145 participants in Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia earned continuing education credits on January 14th and January 19th, respectively.
Overall, participant feedback from the conference was largely positive, with 88% of participants reporting that they found the information useful, 89% reporting increased knowledge, and 71% indicating that they intended to implement a change on their operation based on information learned during the conference. A number of participants also indicated their interest in having online meetings as a learning option for future years; the Forage Council will keep this in mind as we discuss plans for next year and moving forward.
For those who were not able to join us for the conference, or for anyone looking for a refresher, the recordings for each of our speaker presentations are available for your viewing pleasure—links to the videos can be found on the Maryland-Delaware Forage Council website under the Resources page or through the Maryland Forages YouTube page.
While those of us in Extension and the Maryland-Delaware Forage Council missed seeing everyone in person this year, we were happy to be able to host this conference virtually. We hope it was an informative and educational opportunity and we look forward to seeing everyone at the next event!